Review / Vanderbeekers #4

20210627ma_1378Book: The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found (2020)
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Sequel to: Vanderbeekers to the Rescue

Basic plot: The Vanderbeekers are out to help their friend, Orlando. His mom has disappeared and they want him to come live permanently with their upstairs neighbour Mr. Jeet and Miss Josie (who happen to be his uncle and aunt). Orlando isn’t sure and thinks maybe he should move back to Georgia but promises to stay at least until the New York City marathon.

Opening lines from the book …
Bright morning sunshine drifted through the windows of the red brownstone on 141st Street, filling the kitchen with a soft glow.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I love this family. I like that it’s a big family and that they treat this like it isn’t all that unusual. But I also like how the whole building (with Mr. B and Mr. Jeet and Miss Josie) are also part of the “family”. 🙂

2) There’s a new character, Jessie’s friend Orlando. He brings in the whole “lost and found” aspect of the story. I like the little mystery involving him and how they figure it out. And while the kids are trying to help him with his situation, I like how he maintains a love for his own mother, even when she can’t look after him. There’s a nice moment when he explains this to the other kids.

3) There are some touching scenes with Lanie and Mr. Jeet. His health is declining, but she faithfully visits him every day, bringing one of the pets to bring him some joy (much to the chagrin of one of the mean nurses on duty).

4) I love the New York City marathon part of the story. Mr. Beiderman (their old nemesis) is training with Orlando for the race. It’s hilarious when one of the kids (I think it’s Lanie?) gives him his sparkly purple shirt with his name on it so people know to cheer him on. If I were Mr. B, I would have refused to wear that in public. But, he’s an old softy!

5) I think Hyacinth is my favourite character. So, I really did sympathize with her over trying to make friends at school. I understood her “solution” to arrive at school just in time for the bell. No sooner. No later. So when she all of a sudden has to go to school well before the bell rings… Yeah, I feel for you, Hyacinth. Her siblings don’t quite get this about her, but they also know that it’s important to push her to reach to make new friends.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) The rooftop is featured on the book cover. I kind of thought it’d play more of an important role in the story. But it didn’t. (Cool cover, though.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this latest installment of the Vanderbeeker saga. I like the new characters and look forward to the next book. Yes, there’s a new book on the horizon…

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Ten Good and Bad Things About my Life

20210516ma_1038Book: Ten Good and Bad Things About my Life (2012)
Author: Ann M. Martin
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Sequel to: Ten Rules for Living with my Sister

Basic plot: Pearl is back! And this time, she’s entering the fifth grade. And on the first day of school, she’s given an assignment about her summer vacation. Except, her family’s summer plans did not go as expected. That’s because Dad loses his job and, suddenly, the family has to find ways to make ends meet. Pearl chronicles it all…

Opening lines from the book …
“Lexie?” I said on the first day of fifth grade. “Are you nervous about school?”

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Pearl has such a spirited and endearing personality. She is just a bundle of energy and it’s great to see her thought process as she says or does the wrong thing and then tries to fix it.

2) JBIII (pronounced JB-three) is back. He’s James Brubaker the Third, but Pearl shortened his name. He’s such a good friend. But their friendship is not without its ups and downs. I enjoyed seeing them weather the tough stuff.

3) I love the relationship between the sisters. Lexie still doesn’t like underwear visits (if you remember that from the first book), yet the relationship has matured. I love how they go about job-seeking together. Or rather Pearl just tags along.

4) The scenes at camp are great! My favourite part is when Pearl is at the sleep-away part of camp and she explains how you have to go out into the dark, dark woods in order to use the bathroom (known as Goose Lodge), something she really does NOT want to do! When she gives an outline of each day of her camp experience, she always makes note of this: Really hope do not have to go to Goose Lodge alone tonight. Or Did not have to go to Goose Lodge in pitch dark last night.

5) This book deals with a dad who loses a job. And no, that’s not really a spoiler since Pearl basically spoils us with this news in the opening lines of the second chapter. I love how the family works together to weather this not-so-good news. And I love how the girls want to help by finding their own jobs! 

6) Which brings me to how Pearl finds a “job”. I won’t spoil it, but it does fit in very well with her personality and her talents and abilities. 🙂

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) We get a glimpse of Pearl’s brand new teacher, Ms. Brody, at the beginning of the novel. I was expecting more about Ms. Brody. Turns out, she’s really just a device. The whole book is basically a flashback for one of those “How I Spent My Summer” assignments. Not sure how I feel about that. The opening chapter made such a big deal about school and starting fifth grade, and we really don’t get anything about fifth grade!

2) While I love the atmosphere of New York City, the staycation fell a little flat for me. They do a lot of touristy things (that most New Yorkers don’t do!), but nothing really of substance happens during these scenes. Really, they could have been taken out and nothing would be amiss.

FINAL THOUGHTS

What a fun sequel to Ann M. Martin’s first book about these same characters. The family has been compared to the Quimby family (i.e. Ramona and Beezus), and I can see their point. Modern-day Quimby family living in NYC!

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Daily Bread

Daily-BreadBook: Daily Bread (2020)
Author: Antoinette Truglio Martin
Genre: MG, Historical [1911]

Basic plot: It is 1911. Crammed into a three-room flat in a Mott Street tenement, the large Taglia family needs all the help they can muster. Spunky songbird Lily wants to help by baking Daily Bread at the bakery like big sister, Margaret. But Margaret says Lily is just a little kid, and there is more to baking Daily Bread than height and an artist’s heart. Lily learns to navigate in a grown-up world when facing bullies, disasters, dotty bakers, and treacherous streets to cross by herself..

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Loved Margaret and her ambition! In some ways, she reminded me of Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I especially loved the little part where she reveals to Lily how she saves her money. Of course, what’s also nice is how this is juxtaposed by Margaret’s friend, Connie, and her views about money.

2) And then there was Lily’s connection to Mrs. Goldberg through song and dance (ballet). One particularly touching scene is when Mrs. Goldberg seems to be in a deep depression which is then breached by Lily’s song. Later on in the story, I found the revelation about the Goldbergs’ backstory to be fascinating.

3) And let’s not forget the knot surprises. I want a knot surprise! (Not with cheese, though. Jam, please!) Frankly, all the bread in this book did make me hungry. And, while I have never worked in a bakery, I have helped my mother bake bread. (There is almost nothing more fun than punching down the raised dough.)

4) I loved the Lower Manhattan setting. One of my favourite “tourist sites” in all of New York City is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. It’s a spot I’ve repeatedly taken visitors when I lived in New York. This book took me back to those places!

5) When I first saw mention of the Triangle Waistshirt Factory, I knew there was something coming. Whether or not you’re aware of what happened there in 1911, this book will let you relive that historical moment in time.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I found the ending a little abrupt. Like, that’s it? I liked the ending, but I wanted a bit more of a resolution after the very traumatic climax. That said, it’s not a bad ending, it’s just that I wanted more.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This book definitely had the flavour of the classic, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I would recommend this book to readers who are fans of authors like Patricia Reilly Giff, especially if you’re interested in the immigrant experience to New York.

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review.**


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Ten Rules for Living with my Sister

ten-rulesBook: Ten Rules for Living with my Sister (2011)
Author: Ann M. Martin
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Pearl’s older sister Lexie has a ton of rules, one of them being: “No underwear visits from Pearl!” But when their grandpa, Daddy Bo, needs to stay with the family in their Manhattan apartment, suddenly the girls must share a bedroom.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved the humour of this book. Pearl is very likable, but I can also understand Lexie’s frustrations.

2) Pearl’s lists were awesome! She does one where she compares herself to Lexie.

3) One of Pearl’s big problems has to do with the fact that she doesn’t really have any friends. I like how Lexie helps open her eyes that it’s okay to be friends with somebody you might at first reject as a friend-material (like a boy!)

4) Daddy Bo! I loved this grandfather, especially his relationship with Pearl. However, it is hard at times to see how some form of dementia starts to affect him.

5) Loved the New York City setting… The one little fact of their school playground being on the roof is such a city-thing! And there are all sorts of little NYC stuff thrown in, like having bagels at the birthday party. (They even mention lox, although only one kid eats the lox!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Sometimes Pearl did get on my nerves a bit. Maybe that’s just the older sister in me. (I don’t think I’d want underwear visits, either.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Loved this story of two sisters! Definitely would recommend for fans of Ramona Quimby. This book definitely had the Ramona vs. Beezus vibe… set in New York City! 🙂


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Counting Thyme

counting-thymeBook: Counting Thyme (2016)
Author: Melanie Conklin
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Thyme Owen’s little brother Val has cancer. What that means is that their family leaves their home in California to go to get him a special treatment in New York City. Thyme’s not keen on leaving behind her best friend Shani. So, she plans to save up the slips in her Thyme Jar (a little reward system used by her parents) so she can go home early to spend her birthday with Shani in March… just like they do every year. But things start to get complicated, especially when Thyme starts to make new friends. She even signs up to take part in the Spring Fling musical at school in… uh oh… March. And then there’s Val’s cancer treatments…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I enjoyed the relationship between Thyme and her little brother Val. And also the relationship (at times hard; at other times sisterly) with her sister Cori. And I do like that their names are all garden herbs… thanks Mom (i.e. Rosemary)! Thyme = well, Thyme; Cori = Coriander; and Val = Valerian. Okay, so I’m not super enamored with Val’s name. First, because valerian root is a sleep agent and that seems a little weird to me. Not sure what would have been a better name, though! But I do like the names for Thyme and Coriander.

2) One of the best characters is Mrs. Ravelli, the Italian woman who comes to help the family by cooking, cleaning, and walking Thyme to school. What a wonderful woman she is! I love how Thyme gives her the nickname (in a fond sense) of Ravioli. Because well, her name sounds a lot like it.

3) It’s hard to leave your home and friends behind. I love stories that deal with this. Conklin does a nice job with making this work for the story in just the right balance… the longing vs. the acceptance of a new situation. I like the fact that we get to see how the different family members deal with this.

4) The new friendships that develop in the story were nicely done. They took a few little turns I wasn’t quite expecting, which is good! 🙂

5) I almost wanted more interaction between Thyme and the neighbour-man who lives in the apartment below Thyme’s family. Mr. Lipinsky has a good deal of bite to him, but (of course) he turns out to be a bit of a softy at heart. And then there’s his bird, Sylvie.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I like the cover art, but… there is one thing that bothers me about it. If this is New York City, where are the fire escapes?! (That building is a death trap!)

2) There are a few moments where the conflict resolves a little too easily… just like that! *snap* I’m thinking particularly about a scene between the mom and the sister Cori. I was like… well, that was super easy. (If only life worked like that!)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Love the New York City setting. Thyme is a likeable character. And who wouldn’t want Mrs. Ravioli to cook for them? *Highly recommended.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

*Note #2: You may notice that I didn’t put a rating for this book. After reading this post by Krysta @ Pages Unbound, I’m rethinking my rating system. Basically, I find I don’t really review books I don’t recommend. And my ratings all tend to be the same anyhow. (Usually, I fluctuate between a 3-4 stars which mean I like the book!) I will probably continue to put ratings on my Goodreads account, because well, that’s how that website works. But for now, I’m planning to give my recommendation in the Final Thoughts.

Review: The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue

vanderbeekers-rescueBook: The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue (2019)
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 stars

Basic plot: The excitement is great in the Vanderbeeker house. Mama has an interview and photoshoot for her home baking business. But disaster strikes when the inspector arrives at a time when only the kids are home. Needless to say, the inspection doesn’t go well and Mama is now in danger of losing her license. The kids are determined to make things better by scheduling a whole new inspection. Their goal is to pull this off without Mama and Papa ever suspecting a thing. But it isn’t helping that some mysterious person keeps leaving pets on the Vanderbeekers’ doorstep.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I’ll say it again. I love, love, love this big family of five kids. Can I just say that I want a tree house like they build for Oliver? (Although, how they manage to do this in NYC confuses me. I didn’t even know from the previous books that they even had a backyard.)

2) I like how the kids all band together to try to solve this problem. Even when their opinions don’t always mesh, they work through it!

3) I’m glad Herman Huxley is back. At first, I didn’t think he’d make an appearance, but then good ole Herman Huxley pops into the story! I wish Glaser had brought him in a little more.

4) [Minor **Spoiler] The idea of a cat cafe is such fun for kids and animal-lovers. Yes, there really are such places as these. Not sure I’d really want to go, but I know a lot of people who have gone to cafes like this and raved about the experience. (I’m not really a cat person.) [End Spoiler]

5) There’s a nice little mystery involved over WHO is leaving all the animals at the Vanderbeekers’ house. It definitely had me trying to figure it out.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The violin recital. What was the purpose of this? I’m not sure. It didn’t seem to add to the story. (Nor did it take anything away. It just seemed not all that necessary.)

2) The grown-up in me wanted to cringe at times. Especially with the inspector-business! The realism wasn’t quite there, but kids will probably enjoy it.

3) We need MORE Herman Huxley!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – A fun book. Like I mentioned, I wasn’t keen on the fact that I didn’t find the whole premise to be super-realistic. But, kids probably won’t notice and will enjoy the freedom these children have as they run all over New York City!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review: Broken Strings

Book: Broken Strings (2019)
Author: Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
Genre: MG, Near Historical (2002)
Rating: 3 stars

broken-stringsBasic plot: Shirli Berman has been cast in the musical, Fiddler on the Roof… although not quite in the role she’d hoped for (Hodel). She gets to be an old Jewish mama (Golde); and as she goes to her Jewish grandfather to help give her inspiration for the role, she begins to uncover his own history… something he never talked about. Until now.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The musical, Fiddler on the Roof, was one of the musicals I was a part of in high school. Although, I didn’t get such a plum role as Golde! So, I did enjoy attending the rehearsals with Shirli and all her friends.

2) I loved the relationship between Shirli and her grandfather, Zayde. Every day (or close to it), she brings him groceries and they have tea and talk. Shirli even brings Ben (Tevye in the musical).

3) I found it interesting that the setting is New Jersey in 2002, about six months after 9/11 happened. Of course, the book makes a bunch of connections with that event.

4) The historical connection with the Holocaust and the musicians who played at Auschwitz was something I haven’t come across before. I love it when history comes into books like this. Of course, this one is a very sad and heartbreaking connection.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) [*Spoiler here] When their teacher is in an accident, Zayde comes forward to take her place until production. I wasn’t convinced by this plot point. First, he’s directing a musical he’s never seen before; and he’s avoided ALL musicals and the like for the past 50 years?? I would have preferred one of the kids to step up. Maybe Mindi, Shirli’s rival for Hodel…  [End Spoiler]

2) I wasn’t crazy about the puppy-love story between [*Spoiler] Shirli and Ben. I thought it was kind of unnecessary. And it was a tad predictable. [End Spoiler]

3) Why would ANYbody be unhappy to get the role of Golde is beyond me. (I could understand if she got the understudy.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoyed this one. I’d recommend for any theatre enthusiasts, as well as those who have an interest in the history of the Holocaust.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review: The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

Book: The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden (2018)
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars

vanderbeeker-hidden-gardenBasic plot: The Vanderbeekers are back. But this time, while Isa’s away at music camp, her siblings are bored. That is until Mr. Jeet ends up in the hospital. Now the kids want to do something and they latch onto making a community garden in a nearby empty lot. But the horrible Herman Huxley is always there hanging around, and his dad is stirring up lots of trouble…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I love, love, love the big family of five kids… although, it’s kind of only four kids since Isa’s away for most of the book.

2) I was so happy to see their relationship with Mr. Beiderman (from the first book in the series) has grown! Yay! And I really like how he’s part of the solution to their problem with the garden.

3) Herman Huxley! This character (I don’t remember him from the first book) was one of the best parts of this book. I like how he’s introduced as being the essence of everything the Vanderbeeker kids can’t stand. And how he’s connected to Mr. Huxley who’s even worse trouble when it comes to the garden. [**Minor Spoiler] I like how he bonds with Hyacinth over knitting! [end Spoiler]

4) Another part I liked had to do with Jessie’s dream to go to science camp. Oliver figures this out, about halfway through the book. What I really liked was her sacrifice; and how that sacrifice comes back to bless her. (Thanks to Oliver!)

5) I enjoyed all the references to books like The Secret Garden and Mandy. And all the bits about gardening. One of the more memorable scenes for me is when the friend offers the Vanderbeekers the bagged soil that’s sitting around her apartment. I knew that wasn’t going to end well!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The cover of the book makes it seem like the story is set in the autumn. It’s not. It’s set in summer (June and July). Don’t ask me why the leaves have already turned orange.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – A good sequel to the first Vanderbeeker book. This is definitely a quieter book than most. If you enjoy stories about big groups of siblings (like the Penderwicks), then this book is for you.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

ARC Review: The Sound of Silence

sound-of-silenceThe Sound of Silence // by Myron Uhlberg
Release Date: May 1, 2019
Genre: MG, Memoir

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

My Thoughts: What an interesting read! I found this book fascinating. The subtitle is: Growing Up Hearing with Deaf Parents. And that’s pretty much the book in a nutshell. The story takes place in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 40s.

This is not your typical middle-grade read, however. The book is not plot-driven and is episodic in nature. Basically, it’s a slice of life. One of my favourite scenes was when he teaches his classmates how to sign.

I personally really enjoyed this book; not sure how kids will take it, though. I would probably recommend it for older kids who are interested in memoir, and also the subject of deafness and what it means to be deaf.

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5)

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #12

20140422_nyc046

In response to Crimson’s Creative Challenge #12

Crimsonprose posted a photo: “Two (almost identical) bulls stand guard on the entrance to Blickling Hall, (Nr Aylsham, Norfolk), both hold a shield to display the family’s heraldic devices. The family? The Boleyns.”

My response: A photo from my archives. This is one of the two lions that stand guard at the entrance of the New York Public Library (on 5th Avenue in Manhattan). The lions even have names. I believe this one is called Fortitude. (His twin is Patience.)


Check out the original Creative Challenge post here